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With only the wind to guide them, a few wooden sailboats called “skipjacks” break through the winter ice to dredge for oysters. The captains trim their sails, come about, and take another “lick at the reef.” It could be the 1890s, but this evocative scene is happening today along the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. Called watermen, the captains of this fleet are the last fishermen in North America to harness the wind.

SKIPJACK casts light on the lives of captains and their remote, picturesque island communities on which man and nature have lived in step for centuries. All this, however, is in jeopardy. Threatened by pollution, overfishing, and mismanagement, the skipjack and its homeport are barometers for the health of our coastal fisheries. The last vestige of our sailing culture is disappearing.

The story follows three of the best captains through a pivotal season as they battle nature and each other to help control the fate of their island villages and oyster fleet. Setting aside their rivalries halfway through the season, the captains rally to combat the state officials who have mismanaged the harvest, by allowing modern gear to compete with skipjacks (and by giving sport-fishing precedence over commercial fishing). With so many obstacles, it is not certain whether our three captains-and the rest of the fleet-will survive the season. The survival of the North American sailing culture and the future of the nation’s premiere estuary depend on their success.

Read an Excerpt from Skipjack

More on the Skipjack Back Story at Strothman Agency

See Selected Bibliography